This evening on the NFL Network, former 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Martz - who, by the way, has been excellent as a TV analyst - was asked whether the 49ers have a solid quarterback future with Alex Smith and Shaun Hill on the roster. His not-so-surprising answer given that he chose JTO over those two in 2008: a qualified No.
"I think that Shaun Hill is a winner," Martz said. "But I think that he has some limitations in terms of getting the ball down the field. You love him - he's everything you want in the locker room as far as leadership qualities. Alex, when I was there, was injured. And he was very inaccurate in practice, he missed some throws. He didn't have the arm strength he has right now. Certainly when you look at him against Houston, he looks like a different player to me.
"So I think you have to hold off and really analyze the last eight games before you come to that conclusion. But at this point, you have to say, no. The other thing I would say ... those receivers he has now. Those three or four receivers with the tight end - Vernon having a Pro Bowl year --- there are plenty of pieces for him to really take off and have an excellent year."
Host Rich Eisen: What do you think is the aspect of Alex's game that's missing?
Martz: "He has to win. And he has to be the reason why you win a big game. The really good players in the league, the guys that have won for a long time and win championships, they step up. When things are at their worst, he's got to be at his best."
Eisen goes on to note that Smith did that once - three years ago on Thursday night when Smith accounted for three touchdowns in the fourth quarter in a road win against Seattle. Smith also engineered a nice game-winning drive in the 2007 season opener against Arizona. Other than that? Crickets chirping. Martz is right - Smith has eight games to prove he's a winner.
-- Matt Barrows